If I could turn back time

Aug 29, 2015
Vote on Hacker News

time-travel-vortexWith summer drawing to a close, it seems appropriate to revisit our little thought experiment about time travel. The responses from readers proved both entertaining and inspiring, even a bit emotionally touching in some cases. Before I report on the reader feedback, however, I’ll explain my rationale in suggesting this exercise.

As I’ve proselytized before, I believe it’s important to reboot the brain by taking some holiday every once in a while. Disconnecting from the grid, even if just for one week, works wonders for the imagination. Investing in startups, like many other jobs, requires a healthy dose of creative problem-solving from time to time. It also requires a willingness to dream about what could be. I even found myself reading a lot of science fiction during the past month (on physical books!) in order to stretch the mind.

The sentiments reflected in the comments ranged from mild regret (“I would have left those jobs that weren’t right for me at least one year earlier.”), to the all out disconcerting (“I would not have committed the crime that landed me in prison where I write this from.”).

Here is a smattering of the most representative ones:

“I would go back to 2003 and buy more Apple stock at about $1 per share.”


“As for traveling back in time, the big question is do we retain knowledge of the future? Or is that lost? The reason I ask that is that nothing would probably change if I didn’t know better. And that’s what most people don’t appreciate about history. While it appears that things happen for a reason, more often than not they don’t. Good historians understand events from the contexts surrounding those events. On the other hand, most people view history from their current knowledge set and accept that view as immutable fact; albeit terribly biased. So history ends up being very subjective; it is created in one moment and revised the next. No doubt the same can be said about your big data companies looking for patterns that most do not see or comprehend due to lack of knowledge or other bias.”


“I’d probably go back to my last year of college and try to figure out a way to stay with the woman I loved at the time, regardless of what knowledge I was able to retain since that moment.”


“I’d manage to pass by Bechtolsheim’s front porch the day he and David Cheriton’s wrote the first 100K$ checks to the yet-non-existing Google company, in August 98. And top if off by a small 5K$ or 6K$, which is how much I spent on my first car the exact same summer. This car is now worth a little bit north of …. nothing. Whereas my “contribution” would now be worth something like 60 to 70M$.”

— Laurent Kretz (@laurentk)


“I would return to the hospital delivery room on the day my daughter was born, purely to relive that magical moment.”

Best wishes for the final weekend of summer.